After talking to many tech job seekers, I’ve noticed that their obstacles can usually be categorized into a few broad buckets.
Below are a few of the typical phrases I hear from these job seekers — and action steps I recommend to help them move faster through their search process.
“I don’t know what I want to do next”
If you’re here, then you’re in the early phase of the job search process.
Before you earnestly start applying to opportunities, it’s critical to nail your target role and company — to avoid a painful pivot down the road.
The reason why this step matters is because, during the actual search process, it’s too easy to shift the goalpost of what you want if you don’t have a concrete goal. And if you shift the goalpost often, then you’ll be tempted to shape your positioning to be more generic rather than specific. And specific positioning is what’ll help you optimize your storytelling and make a stronger impression during interviews, so that you can land your desired offer.
Career mapping is the name of the game in the discovery phase of the job search. Better understanding your values, strengths, curiosities, and lifestyle needs can help you clarify what roles lie at the intersection of your wants and needs.
These roles make great targets in your job search.
Create your own career map, narrowing down your target role to 1-2 positions.
Do a values exercise. Research your strengths. Learn about your curiosities. Establish your boundaries and needs.
“I’m not good enough for what I want to do next”
If you have this mindset, you’re probably in the early-to-mid phase of the job search process.
Your gut is telling you that you really love the idea of a new career path, but you’re not sure 1) how to get more experience when employers won’t hire you due to lack of experience (the classic chicken-and-egg problem) and 2) if you would actually thrive in this role, or if it’s just your desire for something new.
Running career experiments is one potential solution.
Career experiments are a methodical approach to forming and validating your hypotheses about your career path. This might mean talking to high-performers in the field or working on side-projects.
Are you actually too inexperienced for this role? Or is that a story you’ve concocted in your head?
Fear of failure is very real, especially in the job search process. It’s important to honor this fear, but also confront it head-on (in an exposure-therapy-like fashion) to move you forward.
Run 2-4 career experiments by talking to high-performers in the field (even by cold-emailing!) and/or doing side-projects where you can showcase your learnings and skills.
“I can’t seem to get my foot in the door”
If you’re getting a callback rate of <10% despite submitting your resume to 100’s of online job postings, then this might be you.
The reality is that recruiters often function as an overloaded gatekeeper during the interview process. They get hundreds of resumes for each job posting they manage, so naturally, getting picked for a phone screen can sometimes feel like a roll of the dice. However, recruiter screens aren’t difficult to get if you have a strong search process.
I’ve seen numbers ranging from 2% to 17% for the rate at which a resume drop converts into a phone screen, according to Glassdoor and Lever. The higher-end is usually for technical roles that demand rare, competitive skillsets.
With that said, getting an internal referral from direct contact at your target company spikes up your chances dramatically. In one report by Lever, 8% of referral candidates were hired vs 1.2% of candidates from other sources. That’s almost a 7X improvement in hire rate!
Stop applying via only online direct job postings if you’re getting under a 10% callback rate.
Revive your industry network. Ask your contacts for a referral.
“I can’t seem to close the offer (I want)”
Your interview game is falling short, but you’re unsure how to improve. Recruiters aren’t giving you post-interview feedback (this is normal). When they do, it’s very vague.
How are you supposed to improve your interview game when you can’t even get data on how you’re performing?
The trick is to do more mock interviews — and a lot of them.
When you start conducting mock interviews, do them with experienced practitioners in your chosen field who have done the interviews before — or better yet, have interviewed candidates themselves.
For example, one of the best resources for Product Management interview practice is Lewis Lin’s slack community, where candidates can sign up for mock interviews via each other’s open calendars. Some PMs in the group have even done upwards of 70-80 mock interviews — talk about working hard towards one’s goals!
Do at least 5 mock interviews, preferably 10.
Focus at least 50% of the questions on new topics, while focusing the other 50% on re-visiting old questions to practice recall and incorporate improvements.
Tech job seekers I talk to typically get stuck in their job search in these four ways: uncertainty about their target role, fear of not being good enough, difficulty getting in the door of companies, and finally, delivering a strong enough interview performance to get the offer.
Fortunately, they all have solutions. They require work, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll soon be on your way to the next step.
Where do you feel like you’re getting stuck in your job search?